Da at Tevunot -- The Knowing Heart
Section 1, Chapter 18
Ramchal would have us understand, then, that there are ways we experience
G-d -- and other ways we couldn’t ever experience Him. We don’t and won’t
ever experience Him for example as He is in full, simply because neither
we nor anyone or anything else could. And we don’t experience His full
sovereignty … yet.
Yet we do experience Him in the give-and-take sort of way termed the
reward and punishment system, where He draws close to us when we’re good
and away from us when we’re wrongful (though it’s certainly not that
obvious, and is much more nuanced than this statement would seem to make
An essential point about that to keep in mind, though, is that everything
that happens to us here in the world is thus affected and colored by the
reward and punishment system of interacting with Him; and so everything in
our experience seems to be a Divine reaction to our goodness or
That’s why (though Ramchal doesn’t address this at all) we could be
accused sometimes of focusing too much on reward or punishment and of
forgetting G-d’s fuller plans always lurking in the background. And it
also speaks to others’ accusations that the Torah is too full of hell-fire
and brimstone, and that it places too much emphasis on Divine retribution.
It does indeed focus on those things (though certainly not exclusively or
even a majority of the time), but simply because reward and punishment is
the backdrop to the human experience as we’ve said, because reward and
punishment allows for free will and for interactions with G-d.
Nonetheless, the motor driving things from here to there and advancing G-
d’s ultimate aim here -- the soul thrust deep within the body that is this
world and all its parts-- is the upcoming revelation of G-d’s Yichud .
For, indeed, everything is heading that way without exception, and despite
And so we’re presented with three components to factor into G-d’s
interactions with us: the eventual revelation of His Yichud, the day to
day ethics-based system of reward and punishment that has bearing on
everything in our experience, and the interplay between the two. It
follows then that we’d need to grasp the way G-d’s ultimate aim filters
through the system of reward and punishment if we’re to truly understand
things here in the world.
Never forget, though, that it’s G-d’ s will that steers all of the above
and drives it. Nothing here, no matter how much affected by the exigencies
of reward and punishment, functions on its own or supersedes His will. For
in the end, every rule He established is ad hoc, each and every function
is subservient to His rule.
After all isn't it said that, “The heavens were made by G-d’s word; by the
breath of His mouth all their host (were made)” (Psalms 33:6); that “You,
G-d, You are the only one. You made the heavens, the highest heavens and
all their hosts, the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that
is in them. You (alone) grant them all life” (Nehemiah 9:6); that we're
to “Lift up (our) eyes on high and see who has created these!” (Isaiah
40:26); and that “It was I (G-d alone) who made the earth and created
mankind on it; it was My hands that stretched out the heavens; I commanded
all their host” (Isaiah 45:12).
In point of fact, not only is it true that what happens here happens
purposefully -- it also comes about precisely the way it does despite the
plethora of ways it could have. For not only is G-d not restricted in all
the ways we’d noted, it’s also true that His choice of the makeup of the
cosmos was also on purpose and is just one of an infinite number of
possible cosmic makeups He might have opted for .
For, not only are the laws of nature one of His “inventions”, but the very
fact that there’d be “nature” (i.e., proce ss, function, components,
properties, etc.) at all is an idea of His that wasn’t at all mandatory!
 As R’ Friedlander lays out the dynamics in his note 99, G-d’s will to
interact with us in full beneficence (which will only come about once His
Yichud is revealed) has been waylaid and forced to take the circuitous
route of the system of reward and punishment, since it’s the route that
best serves G-d’s ultimate aim (as it allows for human free will).
It follows then that everything that occurs now between Him and us passes
through the reward and punishment system. Our point is that everything in
our experience thus seems to be tinged with either reward or punishment,
since that is the “screen” through which everything in our experience must
R’ Friedlander draws our attention to Clallam Rishonim 6, paragraph
beginning harasheimu for the Kabbalistic underpinnings to this chapter.
Also see R’ Goldblatt in notes 3, 6,9,10-11 to his comments as well as his
notes 23-28 on pp. 476-467, and R’ Shriki’s note 42, where he cites Klach
Pitchei Chochma 27.
 See R’ Friedlander’s note 100 as well as to the paragraph in Clallam
Rishonim 6 cited in note 1 above.
 See Clallam Rishonim 6 paragraph beginning v’od yesh l’neshama.
 R’ Friedlander (iyyun 18) quotes Ramchal’s quite astonishing statement
elsewhere that, in fact, even the sephirot -- the very building blocks of
all cosmic reality, “are (only) one of the mechanisms that the Supreme
Will wanted to present His laws though”, that their use is “not intrinsic
to Him, but (rather) a mechanism that He willfully chose” among an
infinite number of them. As such, nothing is other than as He wills it to
(Klach Pitchei Chochma 25).
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.